Hurricane Irma Threat Level:
The consensus between the models on the track Hurricane Irma will take continues to increase. The center of the storm is projected to be near the Florida Keys or the southern tip of Florida by 8:00 A.M. Sunday morning. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is forecasting the maximum sustained wind within the storm at that time to be 145 mph (Cat 4). From there the hurricane center is likely to travel northward - up across the entire Florida Peninsula (weakening some but remaining a hurricane most of the way) and then into Georgia Monday, weakening to a tropical storm at that point. While there is always the possibility of a last minute jog in the track or the intensity forecast being off a bit, with every few hours that pass where the models keep showing the same forecast, the likely-hood of this forecast verifying increases. At this point I would say that the chance of this forecast verifying (or being pretty close) is about 70%. If nothing changes significantly by this time tomorrow, the chance of verification increases to 80% (these percentages are purely subjective but reflect my thoughts). It is pretty close to a "worst case scenario" with a major hurricane passing over heavily populated Florida and if it does indeed play out in this fashion, the result could be something we have never really seen before. Significant damage and flooded areas are obvious threats, but I wonder what might occur that is not being anticipated? Because of the rather unusual track this storm will likely take, it will be difficult or impossible for help to come down to Floridians from the north right away. The latest NHC forecast is pictured below.
Anyone in a vulnerable portion of south Florida should absolutely evacuate asap if they are being directed to do so and haven't already. This is not a storm you want to ride out there. You absolutely do not want to be anywhere near where the storm surge may reach. The storm surge is the biggest killer in hurricanes. "A Storm Surge Warning means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, during the next 36 hours in the indicated locations." A map of current storm surge warnings can be found here. It will become increasingly difficult to leave tomorrow as incoming rain bands become more numerous and the wind starts to pick up.
As of 11:00 AM EDT:
Max Wind: 150 mph (Cat 4)
Center: 405 miles southeast of Miami
Motion: Toward the West-Northwest at 14 mph
Min. Central Pressure: 927 millibars/27.38 inches of mercury